I’m reminded of the episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” in which Spike commented, “If every vampire who said he was at the crucifixion was actually there, it would have been like Woodstock.”
A defensive Romney was peppered with questions today on exactly what he meant when he said — most recently on Meet the Press — that he “saw” his father march with Martin Luther King Jr. Recent articles have indicated that his father, the late Michigan Gov. George Romney, didn’t march with the civil-rights leader.
Admitting that he didn’t see the march with his own eyes, he said, “I ‘saw’ him in the figurative sense.”
“The reference of seeing my father lead in civil rights,” he said, “and seeing my father march with Martin Luther King is in the sense of this figurative awareness of and recognition of his leadership.”
“I’ve tried to be as accurate as I can be,” he continued, smiling firmly. “If you look at the literature or look at the dictionary, the term ‘saw’ includes being aware of — in the sense I’ve described.”
The questioning did not relent. “I’m an English literature major,” he insisted at one point. “When we say I saw the Patriots win the World Series, it doesn’t necessarily mean you were there.”
Of course, since the Patriots play football, no one would see them at baseball’s World Series. (If Kerry, Gore or Edwards made that error, it would haunt them forever — elitist! girly-man! faker! — but Romney will be given a pass.) That aside, however, what a pathetically lame defense.
Incidently, Romney’s lie about marching with Martin Luther King Jr used to be more extreme. This week, he only lied about his father marching with MLK. Thirty years ago, he claimed that he himself marched with MLK.
As I’ve said before, since conservatives lack credibility on race, they cite MLK to “borrow” MLK’s credibility for their own purposes.
This is a useful tactic for politicians1 because the large majority of Americans have forgotten the policies MLK actually advocated for. So claiming allegiance with MLK’s memory is a good way for politicians to pretend they’re against white supremacy without actually committing to any policy positions that might have the effect of reducing white supremacy at all.
UPDATE: Mark Schmitt points out that “in fact, Governor George Romney had an extremely impressive civil rights record.” But he also asks:
Is there the slightest reason to believe that in the same position as his father, as it was becoming clear that the Republicans’ path to the presidency ran through the South (Goldwater secured the nomination in 1964 in part by opposing the Civil Rights Act, and Strom Thurmond switched parties that year), [Mitt Romney] would have shown similar courage? Mitt Romney’s shape-shifting adaptation to whatever the Republican prejudice of the moment is (anti-immigration rhetoric, or denouncing the kind of health plan he enacted as “socialized medicine”) suggests that he wouldn’t have been doing any marching.
- Democrats and Republicans alike [↩]